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'American Idol' Review: Sure Taylor Won, But What's the Deal with Freaky Clay Aiken?
2006-05-27 10:25
by Scott Long

I know I'm a little late doing a wrap-up of the final episode of American Idol, but I still do have a few things to offer. I will go in order, as the two-hour finale actually lived up to the hype. It had moments of great entertainment, even though half of the show was filled with massive Amtrak collisions.

The show began with live remotes of the two finalists, hometown celebrations. Taylor had, what appeared to be, half of the state of Alabama, in Birmingham to root him on. It was like the Iron Bowl times 10. Katharine, on the other hand, had about 30 people there in L.A., which I'm guessing half were part of a Fox TV tour group.

In Katherine's defense, let me mention this. I've been to Birmingham and I've been to L.A. There is nothing to do outside of going to the Stardome in Birmingham, so no wonder Taylor was drawing such big crowds. Los Angeles has so much going on that they couldn't keep an NFL team there, as people have better things to do than show up to football games. Like watch the E! channel.

The American Idol finale featured many of this season's contestants singing with their musical heroes. First up was Paris Bennett dueting with Al Jarreau. While Mr. Jarreau is a fellow University of Iowa alum, I don't get his crazy scatting style. I know "We're in This Love Together" is his signature song, but my choice would have been "Theme from Moonlighting," with maybe a guest appearance from Miss Dipesto and Herbert Viola doing the tango to it.

The guy who should have won the contest, Chris Daughtry, was up next and he joined the band Live in a strong duet of some new song from the band that no one will ever hear again on network TV or commercial radio. (I'm not gay, but ... alert!) Is there any guy sporting a bald head who looks cooler than singer Ed Kowalczyk? He was like a cross between Andre Agassi and the villian from the movie The Mummy.

A running bit through the show was little comedy sketches that Kelly Pickler did with noted comic actor Wolfgang Puck. Pickler is not much of a singer, but she has decent comedic timing and I look forward to when she joins the cast of the reformed Mandrell Sisters Variety Show, with Kelly reprising the role of Louise Mandrell. Look for the Pickler to be opening for Yakov Smirnoff in Branson by 2010. America, what a country!

The next duet featured Katharine singing with Meat Loaf. Katharine might have had her best singing performance during this song, but it was hard to focus with Marvin Lee Adlay emoting like Shatner during Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I mean the guy was shaking so bad that even Muhammad Ali watching at home was praying for this fight to be stopped. I've never understood how anyone can listen to Jim Steinman's epic song-writing style. The only performance I've ever liked on a Meat Loaf album was by Phil Rizzuto. (This reference to Rizzuto officially makes this post a baseball piece, so all the haters stay off my back and focus your venom on World Cup updates.)

While I usually can't stand when shows do a choreographed piece using the cast, the segment with all the guys singing BTO's "Takin' Care of Business" was good. Standouts were Daughtry and Elliott Yamin, who are the two best male singers the show has ever had. Even poodle-haired Bucky Covington sang well on the tune. On the negative side, Ace Young demonstrated once again that the guy is little more than a breathy singing Tiger Beat pinup come to life. A final note to this performance was that Taylor played harmonica in the song, showing who he really is. Return of Bruno I say!

After a great beginning to U2's classic "One," sung beautifully by Yamin, Mary J. Blige joined him and went way over the top, drowning out Yamin and whomever else was attempting to speak in a five-mile radius. Can someone develop a V-chip which shuts down a television whenever someone over-sings? I'm buying it as soon as it's available.

Last year's winner, Carrie Underwood, was up next. Underwood, who I think is a lightweight talent, did a fine job with whatever song she was doing and she looked really hot doing it. While she's no Natalie Maines or Sara Evans, she has more ability than I gave her credit for.

Another running feature during the show was to have "awards" given to the most memorable audition losers. I enjoyed this segment, despite it giving more airtime to the swarmiest man in TV, Ryan Seacrest. Every time I see Seacrest on the screen I think about how he and fellow no-talents Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul should kick in 90 percent of their salaries to Simon Cowell, as Simon is the reason the show is such a sensation. Oh and one more thing, where is Dunkleman?

Taylor was paired for a duet with Toni Braxton on "In the Ghetto." Braxton was singing at such a low key that her voice could not be heard except by sperm whales. It was like she was trying to channel the deep bass voiced guy from the Oak Ridge Boys. "Umm Papa, Umm Papa, Umm Papa, Mau Mau." Who would have guessed that Curtis Martin would have a longer career than Braxton? Well, maybe Jason Kidd and Jim Jackson would have bet against Toni.

While the men's ensemble number was good, the women proved that they were definitely not the equal in talent for the 2006 season. Mandissa was the best, as she has a great voice and a pretty face, but genetics will keep her in the backup singer role.

The show was beginning to hit a lull but then one of the most memorable moments in TV history was about to happen. A clip was shown from the auditions of a guy who looked a lot like Clay Aiken. After presenting him an award for Best Impersonator -- I thought Taylor whould have won for doing Michael McDonald -- Clay II came out to sing, only to be joined by the freakish Aiken himself. I know in the past many have felt I was unfair to the Gaiken, but after his performance Wednesday night, I've been vindicated. If you don't believe me, watch this clip.

Aiken looked like something out of plastic surgery nightmare. It was the least human-looking performance to hit the TV airwaves since Max Headroom. And what do you call the singing style he was using? Though I did appreciate the humor of Clay singing "Don't Let the Sun (SON) Go Down On Me." (Hack joke, but when it comes to the Gaiken, I will do whatever it takes to bring him to his knees. Well... you know what I mean.)

Putting the show back on the talent track, Burt Bacharach led the cast in singing some of his greatest hits. Once again, Elliott was the standout performer, doing a version of "This House is Not a Home" that had Luther Vandross groovin' in his grave. How I know this? I spoke to my Psychic Friends who had contacted Luther. These "friends" were available, as their leader, Dionne Warwick was busy reprising some of her Bacharach classics on the show at the time. Dionne has the reserved phrasing that is the antithesis of the overdramatic warbling which wrecks so much of modern soul music. Also, Ms. Warwick was the greatest "Solid Gold" TV host, far exceeding her successors. (Done in the voice of a cheesy '80s TV announcer.) Ladies and Gentlemen. Let's hear it for your host. Marilyn McCoo and Rex Smith.

Right before the results were to be announced, out popped Prince. I haven't heard his new release, outside of the first single, but his performing power and completely unique singing style on the songs he did made me want to go out and buy it. Listening to Prince is a great example of why Taylor Hicks is so limited as a performer. There is nothing original about the guy. Sure Prince has been influenced by the likes of James Brown and Sly Stone, but he is completely an original at the same time. Taylor Hicks is a tribute act.

In the most anti-climatic announcement since Bush 41 beat Dukakis, Taylor was crowned champion. I figure the most nervous guys about his victory are Walt Frazier and Keith Hernandez, as the Just for Men executives must have Taylor in their future spokesman sites.

This year's American Idol had the greatest depth of talent, but sadly, there were four more deserving people to win the show's crown. I would have voted:

  1. Elliott
  2. Chris
  3. Paris
  4. Katharine
  5. Taylor
To close the show, Taylor sang the first single set to be released by him, entitled, "Do I Make You Proud?" It's truly a hideous song, but it was contracted by the American Idol show for the winner and it sets him off to be the next Michael Bolton. Not having to record a song like this should be a nice consolation prize for Chris and Elliott, the true talents that came about from the best year of American Idol.

Dunkleman, out!

2006-05-27 11:51:26
1.   beau99
The song that Chris performed with Live is soaring up the iTunes charts and will be hitting radio within the next couple of weeks. Also, they performed the song on The Ellen Degeneres Show recently, and that episode will air sometime in early June.

Just thought I'd correct your mistake.

2006-05-27 12:05:05
2.   JJoeScott
"I thought Taylor would have won for doing Michael McDonald." Great line!
2006-05-27 12:10:48
3.   JJoeScott
Meant to add this above: My wife and I listened to the snippets of the AI5 album on iTunes yesterday. She said, Elliott is the only one who sounds like a real singer.
2006-05-27 12:46:02
4.   Scott Long
I'm a fan of LIVE, I just wanted to point out the current radio world we live in where bands like LIVE have a hard time getting radio play. When they came out, radio was just starting to embrace "alternative" rock music, but now most markets have no place for them. It's sad. I hope LIVE has success. I also hope Daughtry follows their example instead of the Fuel-types.
2006-05-27 16:55:53
5.   gtalent
Sorry you feel threatened by Ace, most men do. He was great in the guys medley and amazing singing The Look of Love.
2006-05-27 19:44:48
6.   MoGilb
I suppose I'm still at a loss as to your inability as a comedian!

Hopefully, you're aware of Wolfgang's profession...and why must you make disparaging remarks about Clay Aiken?

Maybe when one reaches my age, they can't see the "humor" that you try to dispense....

Oh well..........

2006-05-27 20:02:19
7.   Scott Long
I usually try to be gentle in my replies in the comment section, as I wamt to foster an enviroment where people can feel free to criticize. This is one of those rare occasions where I will step away from this mode.

YO MoGilb--- I don't know what age you are, but if you can't understand that I'm making a joke about Wolfgang Puck, you are a complete dolt. In regards to Aiken, I defy anyone to tell me that they thought his singing on the show Wednesday was good. Please make me understand any logic to how he could get on national TV and look and act like a talentless android.

2006-05-27 20:32:26
8.   Best Friend
Sadly, your link to Clay is no longer valid. Now I will never know if your disparaging comments were justified.
2006-05-27 21:40:49
9.   Cybergal
You definiitely are a closet Gay!! That can only explain your putdowns of most of the women on American Idol V and your comment regarding Live's Ed Kowalczyk. Only a gay man would find Mr. Kowalczyk so interesting. And one that feels inadequate too judging by your slamming of hunk Ace Young and multi-talented Clay Aiken. It's hard to believe that someone actually pays you to "report". I suggest you get a job more suitable to your talents, like hotdog vendor or horse stall mucker.
2006-05-27 22:23:07
10.   RollTide77
Not sure what sexual preference has to do with talent, but Clay Aiken has a beautiful voice. Is Clay an admitted homosexual or just because he is not fitted for a tough man competition, to some men that makes him gay? Would love to know. Taylor has soul, he will go a long way because he was the underdog and most people want the most humble person to win. Even Katherine said she could be making a mikstake by wanting to win.
2006-05-27 22:43:20
11.   shakescene
You're a decent critic most of the time but you don't know the full story on Clay Aiken's appearance -- the whole scene was an unrehearsed surprise that nearly went awry.

The Clay impersonator sang an old arrangement of the song "Don't let the sun..." instead of the version Clay usually sings. As a result when the curtain opened for Clay's entrance, he had to let the impersonator sing alone for a few seconds because the imposter was singing the wrong lines. And after the impersonator saw Aiken on stage, he flipped out and completely lost track.

Obviously Clay was a little stunned that this glitch was happening in front of 38 million viewers, and he was concentrating hard to keep control of the performance. He did a great save, and everything sounded great after they turned off the imposter's mike.

I like Clay's new look. It reminds me of the Beatles. The buzz on his fan websites is overwhelmingly positive, and I'll give you odds that his upcoming album will go platinum.

2006-05-27 22:45:17
12.   Scott Long
Cybergal- First I want to commend you on the slams. The horse stall mucker line was really funny. Almost as funny as saying Clay Aiken is multi-talented.

Taylor has soul. Maybe. Better way of putting it might be that he has stolen the soul of other blue eyed soul singers like McDonald and Cocker.

How can you say he was the underdog? He was never in the bottom 3 the whole competition. The real underdog was Elliott who continued to get better and better as the show progressed. It was really fun watching him grow confidence in himself.

Here is the background of the "underdog", pulled from

"Hicks' professional music career began with performances at various venues, including the Playboy Mansion.2 He released two independent albums, In Your Time (1997) and Under the Radar (2005), prior to appearing on Idol, though he never held a recording contract so he did not violate their requirements for contestants. Hicks has also spoken on Tapestry, a radio program on National Public Radio affiliate WBHM in Birmingham, in December 2005. 8. Hicks has also performed with James Brown, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, The Drive-By Truckers, and Robert Randolph. Hicks is currently collaborating with contemporary blues legend Keb Mo."

Not exactly a rags to riches story. I'm looking for a unique voice and the guy doesn't have it. This is why Simon was never a fan and from his reaction during the show, I'm guessing this was his least favorite winner in the 5 years. Elliott and Chris were the 2 best male singers in the history of the show and didn't even make it to the finals.

And yes, to any of our loyal readers checking out this comment, no... I must not have a life.

2006-05-27 22:54:53
13.   Scott Long
Shakescene- I appreciate your post and I had heard some of the background info about what you discuss. I'm guessing this is why Seacrest came up to the Clay impersonator and told him to sit down and watch, midway through. The whole thing was really awkward, but I will admit it was riveting TV.

I've always stated that I have no problem with his homosexuality, just that he tries to market himself as some kind of lady killer. It's a sad life (ask George Michael) especially when you know his last name is a hint to his closeted life.
Clay Aiken for a Man.
I hope he gets to live the life he wants soon, as that would be no way to live. Take it from a professional hot dog vendor.

2006-05-28 07:18:21
14.   Barbara123
Elliott does have the best voice of the male contestants this year, and I think Mandisa (and Paris) had 2 of the best females voices, but mainstream America usually doesn't vote for singers who sing jazzy songs. I think Elliott should have won the title, too.
2006-05-28 13:03:06
15.   Ashley
So...just out of curiosity, do you make these comments out of seriousness, or do you make them out of insecurity to make yourself feel better?

"I've always stated that I have no problem with his homosexuality, just that he tries to market himself as some kind of lady killer. It's a sad life (ask George Michael) especially when you know his last name is a hint to his closeted life.
Clay Aiken for a Man."

A little low, don't you think? We all know what you think about him and his sexuality and all that other stupid stuff, there a point in making that very prevalent in EVERY post/comment you make?

Also...I'm a big Chris fan (he's my fave this season, and I agree he should have won w/ Elliott being the runner-up), but to talk about Taylor having released a couple independent albums, Chris did too with his band Absent he wasn't really much off from Taylor in that aspect...just didn't know if you knew that or not...

Overall, I actually agreed with a lot of what you said and thought that for the most part this article was entertaining. The only criticism I have is that some of your comments, as I gave an example of earlier, were a little low and I don't feel the need to express your extreme attitude about that person EVERY time you post.

While I don't like many of the comments you posted towards Clay (yes, I am a Clay fan...he's my fave contestant from any season), and I expressed my opinion on that, I know that this is just an online article and I'm not getting myself all worked up and taking personal offense to them. I think both you and the others leaving you comments need to remember that and know that taking cheap shots at one another and insulting one another is pretty ridiculous...if you can't handle what one person says ONLINE, how do you function in the real world? They're words, people...despite what you may think, they will not hurt you.

2006-05-29 10:29:59
16.   AI5
Scott, you rock! Love your comments. In fact they are getting some great feedback on the Kelly Clarkson message boards and Elliot Yamin sites. I think Elliot or Chris should have won. Chris is an easy bet for mainstream success, but Elliot may have a tougher road. I love the Jazzy sound, but how does it fit into radio today? Maybe it fits in like Norah Jones fit into Top 40 a couple of years back. I sure hope so, because that dude is one of the best male vocalists ever to grace the stage of American Idol. America definitely got it twisted this year... they will soon realize their mistake, and let their wallets vote instead.
2006-05-29 12:52:27
17.   Scott Long
Finally I get some love from one of the American Idol sites!

Ashley- Thanks for the well-reasoned comment. I will admit that I play to the crowd like a heel (bad guy) in professional wrestling, trying to bait the anger of Clay Aiken fans. Having said that can some Clay Aiken fan tell me that truly liked the way he sang on the show last Wednesday? I know things were a little off the way it was planned, but his style made Jackie Rogers Jr. seem authentic.

2006-05-29 23:44:29
18.   Ashley

Well, being a Clay fan, I'll go ahead and throw in my two-cents I think it was Clay's best vocal I've ever heard? No, not in a million years..."Bridge Over Troubled Water" will never be topped, in my opinion. I think given the circumstances, it wasn't horrible enough to make me cover my ears, shut my eyes and run out of the room crying and screaming for the Lord to save me from this hell (the only thing guilty of that was his hair...yeah...that has GOT to go)...but, it was not, in my opinion, the best, no. And honestly, I think he was majorly overshadowed by some of the other people that night, including Chris, Elliott, and actually all the guys in general.

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